Amazon Aims for Apple iPad Territory With Kindle Mobile Gaming

Last Updated Aug 6, 2010 1:11 PM EDT

Amazon (AMZN) is quietly putting more games onto the Kindle, a smart move that, assuming it is done well, could help keep current owners away from the rival Apple (APPL) iPad. Amazon's biggest danger is gathering games that clearly show the limitations of its now-dated device. The keys here are relevance to audience, simplicity of execution, smart pricing and expansion of platforms.

Relevance to audience: As Bufo Calvin at I Love My Kindle blog notes, this isn't Kindle's first foray into gaming. It already supported MineSweeper and other titles, but these were extremely basic affairs. In other words, no one would purchase a Kindle to play MineSweeper.

However, both of the new titles, Every Word and Shuffled Row, are Boggle and Hangman variants that appeal to the bookworms who would be buying the Kindle in the first place.

Simplicity of execution: Both new titles are less than 1 MB, which makes them about the size of the average Kindle book. Unlike a tablet, space management shouldn't be a concern to Kindle users.

Second, the simple setup is appropriate for the Kindle. As I wrote before, if the current Kindle goes head-to-head against the iPad's 200,000-plus apps, it will lose miserably. Pushing small, pick-up-and-play and book relevant content to the Kindle is appropriate, using gaming as an added benefit instead of purporting the book reader as a machine as capable as the iPad.

Smart pricing: Both Every Word and Shuffled Row are currently free. The games should not stay free, but low-or-no-cost apps are a smart way to get consumers hooked. The biggest challenge in this arena is, unlike the iPad or even the average cell phone, Kindle isn't recognized as a gaming machine. Free software will help change the perception problem.

Expanding the gaming platforms: The one challenge here is that the new games are only available on second-generation Kindles or later. Not on first-generation Kindles. Not on the PC, Mac, Android or, most importantly, iPlatforms like the iPhone and iPad.

The limitations of the first-generation Kindles makes sense from a hardware standpoint (the three-year old device may be too dated to handle the new games) as well as a business perspective (to encourage sales of the newer editions). However, keeping gaming off the various Kindle platforms gives the wrong message: Amazon is promoting Kindle as a multi-platform reader, but is handicapping the options for non-Kindle devices. Amazon will have to expand its gaming distribution to make a bigger impact on overall Kindle use, device and otherwise.

Photo courtesy of jonathansin